Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation
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Airmail

The Post Office Department initiated the U.S. Air Mail Service from College Park Airfield on August 12, 1918, after a three-month trial in conjunction with the War Department. Max Miller, along with Edward Gardner, Robert Shank, and Maurice Newton, flew the first 218-mile flight from College Park to New York, via Philadelphia.


airmail Courier
Pilot Max Miller and courier at a stop during the inaugural flight of the U.S. Airmail, 1918.
The Post Office Department ordered six aeros from the Standard Aircraft Company for these flights. Other aircraft, such as the Curtiss Jenny and the DeHavilland DH-4 were used to fly the mail. Capt. Benjamin Lipsner was appointed superintendent of the service, having resigned from the Army to take this appointment. He oversaw all supervisory details for this venture, which, like the other activities of the College Park Airfield, always seemed to attract media attention.

In 1919 a hangar was built and a "compass rose" was placed on the field (both still exist today). As the successful operation continued to grow, the rose enabled pilots to line up their planes on a north-south directional axis to calibrate their compasses for their flights, since there were no radio instruments developed yet to assist pilots.

As new airmail routes were opened, pilots faced many dangers including unfamiliar territory, inadequate planes, and unreliable navigational equipment. Max Miller and many other pilots lost their lives delivering the mail and opening these new routes.

In 1921 the airmail station at College Park was closed as the New York-California route was instituted. By 1926, the Post Office Department had turned over the service to private enterprise to become more cost effective, faster, and more efficient in delivering the mail.